Special sitting of Bulgaria’s Parliament on beating of anti-government protesters

The Speaker of Bulgaria’s National Assembly, Iva Miteva, has called a special sitting of Parliament for August 17 after new video footage emerged of people dressed in police uniforms brutally assaulting anti-government protesters last year.

The footage dates from the night of July 10 last year, during large-scale peaceful protests demanding the resignation of Boiko Borissov’s government of the time, and of Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev.

The video, which depicts protesters being dragged behind the columns of a government building in central Sofia and being forced to the ground, punched and kicked, was shown at a sitting on August 13 of a parliamentary ad hoc committee elected on July 22 this year to investigate the police violence last summer.

Bulgaria’s caretaker Interior Minister, Boiko Rashkov, will be asked to brief Parliament at Tuesday’s sitting on the actions taken to identify the people who exceeded their powers, the penalties imposed and the measures taken to prevent such things happening, Miteva said.

“I watched with indignation, pain and anxiety the published footage of the violence against the protesting young people in the summer of 2020. I share this not only as Speaker of the National Assembly and a lawyer, but also as a citizen, a woman and a mother,” she said.

Slavi Trifonov, leader of the ITN party – the largest group in the current National Assembly – said in a Facebook post on August 14 that Borissov was to blame for the police violence against protesters.

Trifonov said that the footage had been hidden by those formerly in charge of the police, and called for immediate arrests and trials.

Democratic Bulgaria coalition co-leader Hristo Ivanov said that the events in the video were part of a purposefully political ordered and politically and institutionally concealed operation to snatch freedom from the hands of Bulgarian citizens, which also had involved mass wiretapping on the pretext that a coup d’etat was being attempted.

The perpetrators were former interior ministers – today MPs for Borissov’s GERB-UDF – Mladen Marinov and Hristo Terziiski – and their patrons, Borissov and Geshev, Ivanov said.

Nikolai Hadzhigenov of the “Rise Up Bulgaria! We’re Coming” coalition, who chairs the parliamentary ad hoc committee on the police violence last summer, said that whoever had concealed the video was an accomplice to a crime.

He called for the dismissal as head of the National Protection Service of Emil Tonev, who had denied that the footage existed.

Earlier, the Interior Ministry and Prosecutor’s Office had said that their internal investigations had established that there was no police brutality. Hadzhigenov said that these claims also were crimes.

The ad hoc committee has more videos to watch, he said.

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